InterCultural Challenges

Challenge #1

Only half of my husband’s family speaks English.

Have I mentioned that I am only proficient in English?

Challenge #2

Differing gender role expectations.

Have I mentioned that in my 20s I was a self described radical feminist?

 

Let’s tackle the language challenge first. My husband is biliteral, not just bilingual. A biliteral person is proficient in speaking, reading, and writing more than one language. I knew him for months before I became aware that he was from another country. No kidding. It’s true! And when the person told me, I didn’t believe her.

When we started dating I was not made aware that many of his family members did not speak English. In fact, I believe we were driving to his sisters’ house when he mentioned in passing that she was just starting English language classes. Did I feel awkward when I met her? Yes. Was I worried that he would think I didn’t fit in because of the language barrier? Yes. To a certain extent the language barrier has been a problem.

It has also been a blessing. There have been times when I just felt like spacing out. Since I don’t speak the other language no one expects me to follow the conversation. I also stink at casual conversation and chit chat. No worries there! No one expects me to be chatty. I tend to be shy and a bit of a wallflower. Ahh! Being ignorant of the language suits me perfectly.

And then there are the times when it really stinks. Like when I met my mother in law. I could only say that I was pleased to meet her. After that we were not able to communicate. I spent a lot of time smiling and nodding. I’d like to say that my husband did an excellent job of translating for us, but he didn’t. And still doesn’t. Over time, and with a little study, I have gotten to the point where I can identify about 25% of a conversation. However, I still cannot participate and I am still struggling to learn the language. I am looking forward to the day when I can hold my own in a conversation. Then I will feel like I am really a part of the family.

We’ll tackle gender roles next time …

 

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